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Portland, OR
USA

I exist to help dads learn to communicate and engage with their young adult daughters.  I provide resources from my vast amounts of research and experience with dads and daughters, and this is the place where you'll find the tools you need to become the hero you've always wanted to be.

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Blind Spots

Michelle Watson

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We’ve all heard the term “blind spot” when it comes to driving. And just to make sure we’re all in the same lane, here’s how the dictionary defines it: “an area where a person's view is obstructed.”

And though this term refers to our line of sight when driving a car, it also serves as a clever metaphor for life beyond the wheel. Why is that, you ask? Because every one of us is vulnerable to mishaps or accidents in those areas where our view is less than clear.

Relating this to dads, have you ever wondered how your personal blind spots might keep you from seeing the ways that your “driving” is impacting your daughter? [a.k.a. the way you steer her or influence her by your responses and choices]. Truth be told: the way you “drive” when she’s along for the ride impacts every part of her life. Stated otherwise, your blind spots have the potential to harm her or even put her in danger.

But let’s be honest, sometimes it can be hard to come out from under the illusion that we’re expert drivers because then it would require admitting that maybe we don’t have things under control or that we can’t see everything plainly. And to make matters worse, what happens when someone points out something we’ve missed or done wrong when we’re the one at the wheel.

  • That’s usually when the walls of defensiveness go up. 

  • That’s usually when anger and blame are set into motion. 

  • That’s usually when conflict erupts. 

Bottom line: Every move we make impacts those with us in the car when we’re “driving.” Even more, when our view is obstructed and we don’t see how the things we’re doing negatively impact those around us, it’s in those times that there is greater potential for unintended or catastrophic injury to those we love. 

 
You’ve no doubt seen these words inscribed on your rear view mirror:   Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.    How true this is when it comes to your relationship with your daughter. Whether she is in the car [of life] with you or in a car following behind yours, she is closely watching and listening and taking note.

You’ve no doubt seen these words inscribed on your rear view mirror: Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.

How true this is when it comes to your relationship with your daughter. Whether she is in the car [of life] with you or in a car following behind yours, she is closely watching and listening and taking note.

 

That’s 24/7 driver’s education at it’s best…or worst.

That said, here are three common blind spots that dads can have with their daughters:

1. Speaking with harshness. Sometimes men are unaware that their strong masculine voices sound harsh, mean, or angry to their girls. Additionally, they may hear themselves as sounding less intense than their daughters do, even justifying their tone of voice when they feel the situation calls for a certain level of intensity. And though our individual preferences regarding volume levels could be described as a Mars-Venus thing (men are from Mars, women are from Venus), if you want to connect with your daughter’s heart, you’ll have to take it down a few notches. Because when a daughter experiences her dad as overpowering and domineering, she interprets his commanding stance as unloving and uncaring, which makes her feel dishonored and rejected. That is when she’ll more readily go into attack mode and retaliate in like kind or put walls up to defend and self-protect. 

Dad, softening your tone will touch that deep place in her heart that longs for and needs your approval and affirmation. 

2. Inattentive listening. I’ve heard a lot of daughters say that their dads sometimes seem more interested in their own work, sports, or ministries than in them. And this conclusion tends to be based on watching where their dads spend the bulk of their time, attention, and money, particularly when they see them have energy to invest elsewhere. Then add in the fact that the majority of men struggle to sustain interest during long conversations (especially if there’s accompanying emotion), often due to having used up the bulk of their words and listening skills during the day, and there’s typically very little margin upon coming home for attending to a talkative daughter who has a need to process life. 

But God has given us two ears and one mouth to remind us to listen twice as much as we talk, and when you listen wholeheartedly, you let your daughter know that she’s worth being heard.

But God has given us two ears and one mouth to remind us to listen twice as much as we talk, and when you listen wholeheartedly, you let your daughter know that she’s worth being heard.

3. Authoritarian Stance. We’ve all heard it said that “rules without relationship equals rebellion.” So when rules are set in place without there first being a solid foundation of relational connection (which, for dads and daughters includes spending time together, listening to each other, playing together, attending events that she’s involved in, celebrating victories and milestones, doing projects together, working alongside each other, volunteering together, etc.), a daughter can easily conclude that her dad loves her less for who she is and more because she performs right or acts perfectly. 

Spending regular, consistent face-to-face time with your daughter communicates that you care more about winning her heart than being the rule enforcer. 

Dad, if you’re ready to decrease the potential for blind spots, here’s your action steps:

The next time you get in your car and see the eight familiar words on your side mirror, Objects in mirror are closer than they appear, let them prompt you to consider how your “driving” on that particular day is impacting your daughter. 

Better yet, why not ask her if there’s one area [a blind spot] where you could do better in making her feel loved and protected and safe. 

After all, there’s no better time than the present to improve your driving record, right? Go dads! 

Dad, Tell Her Your Story

Michelle Watson

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In the words of Dr. Brene Brown, “When we deny our stories, they define us, but when we own our stories, we get to write a brave new ending…with courage that starts with letting ourselves be seen.”

Dad, there is power in letting yourself be seen and known by your daughter as you tell her stories from your life.
 

By opening up with her, it lets her know that you’re human, that you’ve made mistakes (and continue to make them), that you’re authentic and real and “normal” (whatever that means!).

This basically translates to moving from lecturing and teaching mode to an “I’m letting you know more about me” mode. 

The telling of your story can also include lessons you’ve learned along the way, which is a strategic way to form a bond between you as the speaker and your daughter as the listener. By taking off your mask (the one that is self protective and keeps people from really knowing you), you are letting her know who you really are--flaws and all.

Though I’m not saying that your daughter should be your confidant and therapist, I am saying that she can be a catalyst to you choosing to open up your heart and your emotions out of love for her. This will be a gift to her…and yourself. 

To provide confirming evidence for what I’m saying, here’s a positive story-telling experience between me and my dad, Jim:

 

If my dad is anything like you, you probably don’t think that your life is all that interesting. My dad has told me on more than one occasion that because he doesn’t find his life story all that interesting, he’s never thought to share much of it with me…until the last few years, that is

I have the best memory from about 15 years ago when the movie Chicago first came out. When this movie showed up in theaters, I wanted to see it, but I can assure you that this is not the kind of movie my dad goes to…ever! He’s a Sci-fi-adventure-shoot-‘em-up movie watcher. But because my mom was out of town that weekend, my dad took me my sister Liz to the theater, which prompted our idea to make it a “Chicago themed night.” After the movie we ate dinner at Chicago Pizza, and it was there that my dad told us stories of growing up in Chicago. 

He told us about the extreme poverty he grew up with and about his alcoholic dad, then he shared more about what it was like to have three different last names among the seven kids, followed with details of how he worked from the time he was six years old helping his older brothers with their paper routes. Then he told us the story of asking a neighbor boy’s dad to help him build a shoe shine box, and although he was only ten years old and very shy, he had the guts to sneak into a dozen different bars on Vincennes Avenue to shine shoes “under the table” (literally and figuratively!). He made great money as he “bar-hopped,” due in large part to the generosity of wealthy Mr. Lieberman, who would pay five dollars a pop for a job well done. But eventually my dad would be discovered and then get kicked out, only to head to the next bar down the street.  

I learned more about my dad’s childhood that night than ever before, and my sister and I absolutely loved It! And it stands out as one of my favorite nights ever with my dad.

I can honestly say that I’m richer for it because this is part of my history as well. The reality is that these stories would be lost forever if they weren’t passed down from my dad to us girls since they’re not written down anywhere. It’s like he’s a walking history book about his family and life in the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s.

The other benefit is that the stories my dad chooses to tell about his life give me more understanding, empathy, even grace, for who he is now as they help me know him better.
They lead me to have more compassion in those times when I get irked at him because then I recall what he went through, particularly the lack of support, encouragement, money, confidence, or even attentive parents.

Summing up: The more real that my dad is with me, the more real he becomes to me. And I then see him through a reality lens where he’s human (not a superhero), which helps me to accept his limitations because I understand his backstory.

 
 
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If you’re ready to share more of your life story with your daughter, I suggest three ways to go about doing it.

OPTION 1: If you want the fast-get-to-the-point version, here it is: 

  1. Tell her what happened. (at a certain age or in a specific place)

  2. Tell her what you learned. (include positive learning experiences, as well as lessons learned the hard way)

  3. Invite her to ask questions. (choose to be honest and open in ways that are age-appropriate and that stretch you to grow in vulnerability)

OPTION 2: If you want to share something new that you haven’t told her before, start with:

  1. One positive/happy story: (about vacations, jobs, adventures, educational or athletic experiences, volunteer opportunities, etc.)

  2. One accomplishment/exploit: (achievements or awards, risks you’ve taken, feats of strength, endurance ventures, goals achieved, etc.)

  3. One unwise/stupid decision: (such as a physical, financial, or relational choice that didn’t go the way you had thought, planned or hoped it would.)

Now here’s a time when me and my dad had a less than positive story-telling experience:

 

I still remember the time about 20 years ago when I randomly asked my dad if he remembered how old he was when he first had sex. I hadn’t ever thought to ask the question prior to that moment when the question popped into my head, so I asked it. My dad’s intense response completely caught me off guard, and had I known the question would be so offensive to him, tucked inside with ‘no trespassing’ sign on it, I never would have asked it. 

In response, my dad loudly asserted, “Michelle, why would you ask such a question?!! 

Clearly I had crossed an invisible line, one that left me feeling like I’d committed the unpardonable sin by asking it. But I honestly had no idea this theme would turn out to be a land mine issue for him. So the only response I could muster was simply this, “Dad, I asked the question because I wanted to know more about your life. That’s all...honest.”

Maybe you can relate to my dad in not wanting to open the internal vault of your life to your daughter

Fast forward to more recently when my dad shared his thoughts about his struggle to be transparent with me: “Michelle, sometimes when you’ve asked me questions, I guess the hardest part is that I haven't always told you everything. It’s not that I don’t tell you a lot, but there are things that are way too personal or embarrassing that I wouldn't have even told my mother, let alone my daughter. These are actions I've been ashamed of and choices that were absolutely wrong and that I should have been in jail for, but all of this shows the amazing redemption God offers each of us, and especially me, in changing a life that was going nowhere.”

It was extremely helpful for me to hear these words because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. But my dad knew what he hadn’t told me and that was where things got tricky. And even though I assured him that I wouldn’t judge him, affirming that I simply wanted to know more of his real life story, I discovered that we were on different pages and I had to meet him at the place where he was comfortable sharing since it was his story to tell. 

 
 
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OPTION 3: If you’re ready to be challenged to go into more depth with telling your story, here is another model you can use. And though this will take more time and effort on the front end, it will guide you through this process. You can prepare by writing out the story before your dad-daughter date or you can create a list of bullet point list so that you have an overview when you get together. 

Here is a detailed, yet organized way to share more of your story:

1. Tell about your life chronologically: One year at a time.

Tell one thing from each age of your life…as many as you can think of. And if your daughter has questions, let her “ask away,” as my dad has invited me to do.

2. Tell about your life seasonally: One occasion at a time. 
My dad would often tell me stories that corresponded with the current time of year that we were in, whether it was a holiday memory or a weather-related story or about traditions with food at that certain time of year, etc.

3. Tell about your life experientially: One topic at a time. 
For this one you can think in broad topical categories, ranging from your family of origin and what it was like to be in your family to education, job, sports, friends, girlfriends, dating, adventures, risks, etc. The list is endless.

4. Tell about your life spiritually: One theme at a time.
Let her hear about significant times you’ve had in your relationship with God. Talk about lessons you're learning spiritually and about parts of the Bible that are particularly meaningful to you. Be honest about questions or doubts you’ve had in the past, or even now. Tell her about any momentous retreat, camp, or conference experiences you’ve had. And share about music that’s impacted you, and/or any other times you’ve connected to God through your senses or nature.

5. Tell about your life relationally: One person at a time.
As you tell her about various people who have influenced you throughout your life, this is not only a way of honoring those people, but you will be positively impacted by recalling the influence and impact of mentors, coaches, pastors, teachers, relatives, and on it goes. Share what they’ve taught you and why those lessons had value to you then…and now. 

I started this blog with a quote from Brene Brown and it seems only fitting to end with another of her wise statements: “Authenticity is not something we have or don’t have. It’s a practice---a conscious choice of how we want to live. Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

Dad, I trust that you’ll take a step this week to let your true self be seen by telling your daughter one thing about your life that you’ve never told her before.Just watch how she responds.

Let the story telling begin!

Defining Moments: The Valentines Month Challenge (Guest Blog by Jason Waugh)

Michelle Watson

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Today I'm excited to share this guest blog with you from a courageous dad who just “kicked it up a notch” this past month. Jason Waugh is one of my Dad-Daughter Friday blog readers and when he emailed me to share his story a couple of weeks ago, I knew that you all needed to hear it too. Enjoy! 

I believe that every day there are ‘defining moments.’ And if we are paying attention, they provide information that we can use to create memorable experiences. 

At 3:00 a.m. on February 1, 2019, Dr. Michelle Watson’s recurring Dad-Daughter Friday Blog arrived in my email inbox and was that ‘defining moment’ day for me. The subject line of the blog was, Dad, Here’s Your Valentine’s Month Challenge. 

You may be asking why her blog post was a ‘defining moment’ for me. Let me tell you. 

My wife and I are separated and I have been out of our home for 19 months. We have three amazing daughters, ages 12, 10 and almost 9. Candidly, I have lived in fear for the past 19 months that the relationship I so desperately want with my girls will never reach its full potential because of some recent choices I have made. 

Despite being out of our home for a year and a half, my wife and I both feel that I am now a more engaged father. My previous workaholic behavior that resulted in neglect at home had also led to a tendency to take for granted the work my wife did in taking care of our home and family. Some of the changes in me are due to the circumstances that come from parenting individually when they are with me, but the main motivator is my desire to be more present and engaged than I ever was before

My hope is that my efforts will result in the closeness I want so that my girls know, without question, that they are treasured by me.  

The challenge that Dr. Watson issued was for us as dads to commit to communicating love to our daughters every day in February. I instantly decided to tell Bella, Rian and Gabby one thing that is unique to them, one thing that I adore, admire, or respect about them, and/or one thing that I specifically appreciate about them… every single day for an entire month.

Simple in form, but as the days passed, the challenge for me was surprisingly difficult to not repeat myself as I sought to acknowledge something unique to each of them.

 
Fueled by the fear of failure and by my belief that if I don’t complete this challenge it will result in what I fear the most…  that my daughters won’t have the reassurance that they are unconditionally loved from the most important man in their life.

Fueled by the fear of failure and by my belief that if I don’t complete this challenge it will result in what I fear the most…that my daughters won’t have the reassurance that they are unconditionally loved from the most important man in their life.

 

While disappointed that I was successful just 27 out of 28 days, I am haunted by February 13th as the one day that escaped me where I failed to do something special for each one of them. But I must say that I am pleased with my daughter’s responses overall! On the 28th day, after 27 days of individual video messages, text messages and conversations, I shared with them the challenge that I’d been doing and was curious as to their reaction. 

Quite frankly, more days passed with no response than a reaction, which, if I am being honest, disappointed me. However, when I began to feel that way, I reminded myself why I had accepted the challenge in the first place, and it wasn’t to solicit a response; it was so they each would know how much I love and value them. 

Ultimately, my hope is they will develop an expectation that this is how a man should talk to them and treat them as they navigate their teen years through adulthood. 

Still, I was interested in knowing what my daily affirmations meant to them. My two youngest were very cute and said, “I loved them…I woke up every day to your message and it made me feel good.” My oldest said, “nice,” which was initially deflating until she said, “it was nothing I hadn’t heard before.” As I reflected on that statement, a sense of confidence washed over me that I have been more consistent than I thought in verbalizing and showing my three gifts how special they are to me. 

So, Dr. Watson, thank you for caring so much about us dad’s and the relationships we hope to enjoy with our daughters. This challenge was a ‘defining moment’ that I needed and enjoyed executing. 

One more thing. If you haven’t put this challenge into action where you commit to telling your daughter how special she is for 30 days in a row, I’d encourage you to start today and make the next 30 days your own challenge. And if you need encouragement to hang in there through the ups and downs, I’ve got your back. Just do it, Dads!

20/20 Hindsight: One Dad's Honest Reflections Looking Back (Guest Blog)

Michelle Watson

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Due to the vulnerable nature of this guest blog, I’m choosing
to keep the identity of my courageous friend anonymous.
It is with gratitude that I am sharing his honest reflections as a
father whose daughter paid the price for some unwise decisions
he made a few years ago. He described the process of writing
this as “actually therapeutic even though I had to pause a few
times as tears started to take over me,” which makes the gift of
his disclosure all the more valuable. I trust his honesty will lead
you to do the same. ~ Michelle 


Perspective is a funny thing. We often seem to have a more unique and revealing perspective the older we get and after mistakes you wish you could take back.  This is an account of my personal perspective that I wish I would have realized before the heartache myself and my family experienced.

As I was in my bonus room one day getting in a workout recently, I happened to look on our wall where my kid’s K-12 composite school pictures are displayed. I always enjoy looking at them and wish I could turn the clock back to the days of recent tooth fairy visits and self-inflicted haircuts.  

But today was different. 

As I looked at my daughter’s sweet middle-school face, I started to break down. Tears poured down my face as I was reminded of how selfish I was during those impressionable years of hers.  I recall the self-absorbed focus I had on having an affair and telling myself that being happy was what I deserved. I had no clue how my selfishness was going to send me on a journey I’d never wish on any parent---more on that in a moment.  

Once my unfaithful actions were discovered, the decision was made to move out and find an apartment. I continued to justify my selfishness by trying to spin happiness to my kids as they helped me move and decorate my cool (he says sarcastically) one-bedroom residence. Little did I know the damage I was unintentionally doing to my sweet 11-year-old whose world was being shattered in front of my blind eyes. 

As the next couple of years went on, the distance between myself and my daughter (and son) was evident. They saw the broken woman I was responsible for creating in their mom, which led to the indifference they showed me as I continued to live the double life of expressing my wish to reconcile while having my empty words be reflected in my actions.  

As my wife and I tried to put together the pieces of our relationship, it became evident that our daughter was making horrible choices to mask her pain, which included distancing herself from me (not to mention always making sure that everyone knew that her once-labeled hero--me--was a complete asshole) while continuing to head down a path of complete destruction. It was at that point we knew we had to do something---and fast! We made a seemingly unfathomable decision to send her to a boarding school in the middle of nowhere Montana in hopes we could save her from walking out our door and never seeing her again. 

 
The day the transport service drove out of my driveway with our daughter in the backseat was the day I experienced the most pain my heart has ever felt.   Unable to talk and barely breathe as I laid lifeless on her bedroom floor, I was overtaken by a heart-wrenching sob that was uncontrollable.  I could only wonder how our lives ended up in this place.

The day the transport service drove out of my driveway with our daughter in the backseat was the day I experienced the most pain my heart has ever felt.
Unable to talk and barely breathe as I laid lifeless on her bedroom floor, I was overtaken by a heart-wrenching sob that was uncontrollable. I could only wonder how our lives ended up in this place.

 

Fast forward to today---after years of incredibly hard work by both my wife and I, along with our daughter, I’m beyond thrilled to say we came out on the other end stronger than ever as a family.

Looking back now, I’ll admit that although this was painful process, it was a good drill for me to listen to my daughter without rebuttal as I let her know her feelings were valid. I had to learn to be completely vulnerable without giving her reasons for why it happened and let her tell me what all of this did to her without being defensive. What I discovered is that as I began to let my guard down, I became less concerned about protecting myself and more concerned that she received everything I could possibly give her in her healing process. I committed to be completely at her disposal as she gave it to me from her most raw, open, and critical place. 

As I tie this experience all together, I think back to the day I referred to earlier where I was looking at the school pictures on my bonus room wall. Something came over me as I looked at my daughter’s sweet face where I just started weeping and thinking about what our family experienced.

That’s when I picked up my cell phone and called her. I could barely speak, and she could sense it. She asked what was wrong and I told her I just wanted to call and apologize for the heartache I caused those years ago. In her soft graciousness she said, “Dad, you’ve apologized enough, and I’ve already forgiven you. I love you and our relationship is amazing!” 

I can honestly say there was a day when I thought I’d never hear those words from her again.  

Perspective is a funny thing, indeed. 

If I had the opportunity (and knowledge) to stop my old self from making the mistakes I did, of course, I would---as would most of us. But since I can’t, I can only strive to be my best self, to love those close to me, and continue to trust God with the darkest of situations.

I Don't Speak "Car"

Michelle Watson

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I took my car to a local garage the other day because it had been making a strange squeaking noise when I stepped on the brakes. My first thought was that I needed new shocks, but because I literally have no knowledge of cars, I took it to an expert so he could listen to the noise and diagnose the problem.

Truthfully, I hate dealing with car problems. It’s not exactly my area of expertise so I always feel a bit out of my element with things like this. Yet that’s why I give myself bonus points for courageously stepping up to the plate despite my discomfort.

So on this particular day as I walked into the garage, I sought to describe the unusual noise to the shop owner. However, he didn’t seem to understand what I was trying to explain so he suggested that we drive around the block where we could both listen for the problematic sound. I was confident that I’d be validated for what I’d been hearing.

But to no avail (which seems to be the way it goes, right?!).

It was then that the guy strongly (and in a way that I felt was more bold than the conversation merited) communicated to me that he couldn’t help me unless I gave him more specific information at a later date to let him know exactly what I was hearing.

I assure you that I fully comprehended his need for more specific data in order to identify the problem, but that wasn’t really the hardest part for me. It was that he talked down to me with a belittling and demeaning tone, making me feel like I was an idiot for not knowing how to exactly explain my dilemma to him.

Can I be honest and say that this is one of the things that sometimes doesn’t make sense to me about men. I am authentically and respectfully asking if you could shed some light on this for me. I don’t quite understand why there seems to be a need to talk louder and stronger in order to make a point when the person being talked to clearly isn’t tracking with the content.

As I discovered with this guy (the one whose bedside manner was obviously better suited to inanimate objects than humans), he seemed to enjoy powerfully communicating his position while implying that if I didn’t speak “car” then I needn’t return until I had mastered this foreign language since that’s all that he spoke.

The reality is that I love learning new things. In fact, I feel empowered when I walk into areas of incompetence because I’m presented with an opportunity to grow as a result of facing my fears while expanding my knowledge base. And I am enthusiastically willing to learn something new if someone will take the time to explain things to me…with kindness and respect.

The problem I had during this interaction was that he displayed neither of these qualities. And I really didn’t have any other words in my vocabulary to describe the noise other than what I told him. I wasn’t trying to be difficult or sound stupid. I gave him the best explanation I had.

But to him it wasn’t good enough.

He told me that if I came back, two things needed to happen:

1. I had to be way more specific with a better way of letting him know what the problem was, or...
2. It would need to get a lot worse before I actually had a legitimate problem.

I couldn’t quite determine in that moment whether I felt more disrespected, shamed, or angry. And though I feared that I would incite his wrath if I asked any other inane questions or didn’t say things in a way that he respected or understood (since he was clearly escalating in intensity), I decided that I simply had to speak up. I was literally coaching myself, giving myself a pep talk, because I knew that if I didn’t say something, I would disrespect myself.

So I mustered up my courage, looked at him square in his eyes, and met his intensity with these words:

 

I’m not an idiot. I just don’t speak car! As a matter of fact, I have letters after my name, letters which would prove to some that I am not stupid and that I can actually describe complex scenarios in my respective field. We just have different areas of expertise. I did explain this to you the best I could. You and I just speak different languages and I gave you what I have.”

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But I wasn’t finished.

I continued by telling him about the Mars/Venus thing and chose to assert myself even though I was in his world where he held the power. Despite feeling a bit bullied, I didn’t want to leave knowing I hadn’t used my voice. So despite lacking confidence while I spoke, I was happy that he backed down a little bit once I told him that “car” wasn’t my native tongue. It was then that the thought occurred to me that he was treating me with less dignity and honor than the brakes he installs on VW’s.

Dads, I share this story to remind you that, like me, your daughters don’t speak “car.”

It’s important to remember that she has knowledge about things that you don’t, and vice versa. Don’t put her down for not pacing with you fast enough or failing to track with topics that aren’t her forte. If you want to understand what she is saying then you’ll have to come her way (since you’re the adult and as her dad, the leadership role falls to you) because even on the best of days, she might not have any better words than what comes out of her mouth to explain to you what’s squeaking, creaking, or breaking inside her.

Give her the benefit of the doubt that she’s doing the best she can to explain, in her own words, the complexity of her world.

If you let kindness, patience, and gentleness be your guide, they will go a long way towards letting her know that you value, respect, and honor her. And the way you treat her will not only set the foundation for how she respects herself, but it will serve as a model for the way she interacts with others and expects to be treated in return.

After all, when you really think about it, it’s less about getting the car fixed and more about the journey that you take together in the process of getting it fixed, don’t you think?

So why not make it your goal today to take a step toward learning to speak your daughter’s native language (in her own unique dialect). Once you’ve done that, she’ll be more open to learning to speak “car” with you as her teacher. I’d call that a win-win, wouldn’t you?

Dad, Here's Your Valentine's Month Challenge

Michelle Watson

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You may think that you misread my blog title because I used the word month instead of day. But I assure you that you’re seeing things correctly. Let me tell you why.

For many men, Valentine’s Day is that one day each year when they know that if they forget the card, candy, flowers, or the fancy dinner, they’ll be in the doghouse. So the motivation sometimes is more about not getting in trouble than it is on reaching her heart.

Here’s the deal: The underlying desire for most women is that we just want to know that we’re loved and valued and treasured more than one day a year, especially when it feels a bit forced since it’s a manufactured holiday.

So if you, as a dad to your daughter, want to be the hero that she needs you to be, then on this first day of February it’s time to capitalize on this opportunity to show her love for an entire month, not just a day.

Here’s a not-very-hidden Venusian secret: We women love love. And even for those who may be less outwardly demonstrative when it comes to emotional expression, inside the heart of every girl and woman is a God-given desire to be pursued and cherished, adored and known.

And if you as a dad miss the opportunity to pursue your daughter’s heart at any point, she’ll go looking for love elsewhere because this is a legitimate need, not just a want.

Let me back up my statement with an illustration.

As you probably know, Hallmark has a corner on the market this time of year when it comes to cards. In fact, did you know that approximately 150 million Valentine's Day cards are exchanged annually, making it the second most popular card-sending holiday after Christmas?

Thus, it comes as no surprise that they have expanded their efforts beyond sentimental words on the page and are now referred to as “the Hallmark movie empire.”

Since stats are a powerful way to underscore a point, here are some confirming facts regarding their nationwide domination in the area of romantic cinematic expression:

  • In 2010 there were 6 original Hallmark holiday movies

  • In 2014, there were 12

  • In 2015, the network added 21 new movies to their lineup

  • In 2017, they produced 33 more

  • And in June of 2018, they announced that they were debuting 90 additional new movies that now span all year long!

 
What this says to me is simply this:   If someone isn’t experiencing true love in their lives (which may or may not include heartfelt romance), she—or he--will be drawn to watching someone else live out their romantic story.

What this says to me is simply this: If someone isn’t experiencing true love in their lives (which may or may not include heartfelt romance), she—or he--will be drawn to watching someone else live out their romantic story.

 

And even though every single Hallmark storyline is predictable, cheesy, unrealistic, anticipated, scripted, and improbable, the draw we have to the fantasy becomes a substitute for reality, particularly when it’s non-existent.

So Dad, here’s where you get to shine. Become the Prince Charming in your daughter’s romantic story. Whether she has a special someone or not, you can let her know every single day during this entire month of February that she is your treasure.

Start today and make a commitment to communicate love to her daily for the next 28 days. And rest assured that some days will be more significant in terms of your time, money, and energy, yet by mixing it up it will add strength to the impact of your loving expressions.

Here are some practical ideas to get you started:

  • Text her an affirming message (to highlight something you’ve not typically highlighted before, such as a character quality that you admire in this season of her life)

  • Write a note and send it via snail mail so she sees your loving words in your own handwriting (and if she’s like me, she’ll save it forever)

  • Call her to tell her why you thought of her today (leaving a voicemail message is a great idea so she can replay it again and again)

  • FaceTime her and ask questions about her day, her feelings, her fears, and her dreams (make it your goal to get her to talk while you listen)

  • Send her flowers (and make sure to send a card that tells her why she’s amazing in your eyes)

  • Buy her a gift or two (tangible expressions of your love---where you put your money where your mouth is--- it will remind her that she’s your treasure for days and months to come)

  • Stop by her workplace or school and leave a treat with a note (which I guarantee will be shown to all of her friends and they’ll wish you were their dad!)

  • Take her out to breakfast, lunch or dinner (let her choose the place…and then between the time you set up the date and the time you spend together, it will bring joy to her heart as she looks forward to time with you)

So there you have it, dad: your February challenge

I can hardly wait to hear how you, as dialed-in dads, give Hallmark a run for their money this year by showing who the real hero is in your daughter’s story.

(p.s. Write and tell me how it goes so I can celebrate with you!)

Closing the Dream Gap

Michelle Watson

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Over the past couple of years a new term has emerged called the ‘Dream Gap.’ You may have already heard of it, but for me this is something I just learned about recently. And because it’s rocking my world, I wanted to bring it to your attention, Dads.

Let’s start with the historical context:

In 2017 researchers from NYU, Princeton, and the University of Illinois collaborated to present findings from their ground-breaking research, revealing that by the age of five, girls quit dreaming and stop believing they can be anything they want to be or do anything they set their minds to. By contrast, boys in this age range are not experiencing the same things.

They also reported that by the age of six, girls stop associating brilliance with their gender and start avoiding activities that require what they perceive to be high levels of intelligence. Further, the more heart-breaking reality is that when these gender stereotypes regarding a lack of intellectual ability in females take root early, they are believed to have life-long negative impacts on their interests, choices, and career paths.

In other words, when girls decline involvement in activities they believe are reserved only for those who are “really, really smart,” they tend to make choices not to engage in activities where they might have otherwise flourished had they tried. And these restrictive beliefs block young girls and women from pursuing their aspirations, which researchers believe correlates to women being underrepresented in fields that value genius, such as philosophy or physics.

[You can read more about these findings at: https://bit.ly/2RWRpky]

One mom’s story:

In her blog, “Life with my Littles,” Chelsea Johnson shares her personal story around this theme: 

“I first heard about the Dream Gap back in May at Barbie headquarters, and it hit me hard. My daughter just turned four, and right now, she is such a bright, shining light in our family. She loves imagining who she can become and her dream is to become a worker (a construction worker) and a veterinarian (we’re lucky Barbie makes a vet doll and a builder doll!). One day she wants to build her own veterinary clinic. To her, anything is possible, and I want her to always believe that she can be or do anything she wants.

When I heard about the Dream Gap and what research has shown, I was terrified for her. I have friends with daughters between five and seven, and they’ve casually said things to me that have shown me that this gap is real in their daughter’s lives. I don’t want my daughter, or any other girl, to doubt her potential or to think that just because she’s a girl she can’t become who she wants to. Even if you don’t have a daughter, I’m sure you can relate to this feeling.

Yes, I can relate to this feeling because this is my story:

Sometimes people assume that I’m intelligent simply because I have letters after my name. Yet regardless of what people tell me, here is my standard response every single time someone makes a comment about my academic accomplishments: “I’m not that smart…I just work hard.”

 
Until reading this research, I hadn’t considered that I’m actually perfectly positioned inside this stereotypical norm group, mostly because of my own self-deprecating beliefs. Even more, I assumed that I would be convinced I was smart   enough   after graduating with my doctorate, which included doing my own research, then writing and defending my dissertation.

Until reading this research, I hadn’t considered that I’m actually perfectly positioned inside this stereotypical norm group, mostly because of my own self-deprecating beliefs. Even more, I assumed that I would be convinced I was smart enough after graduating with my doctorate, which included doing my own research, then writing and defending my dissertation.

 

But unfortunately, I wouldn’t say that there has been a positive shift in this area in the last decade. So here I am as an educated woman who still doesn’t fully believe that I have enough intellect to be considered truly intelligent.

The crazy thing is that I don’t even know what enough would look like if I had it. I just know that I don’t believe I have as much as I possibly could have.

Did you notice how many times I used the word enough? I assure you that I don’t believe I’m dumb. In fact, I know I have smarts. It’s more that I don’t think I’m smart enough.

You’re probably a step ahead of me and can see that this statement elicits a follow-up question: Smart enough for what or smart enough in comparison to whom? Do you see how relative all of this is and how nebulous these concepts are? What does ‘enough’ even mean in practical terms?

I have an answer.

I was never as smart as Stephanie Weirson, a girl who was in my class from grade school through high school. And it seemed that every time we had a test, she finished long before I was even to the half way point. Solidifying her elevated position in my mind, she was always at the top of the leader board when our grades came out. So Ms. Weirson became my internalized standard against which I measured myself and she was always ahead of me because somehow I linked speed of responses to IQ. Yet now that I say it out loud, I realize how absurd that is!

I have honestly never said any of this out loud quite like this…until now. So here I am admitting that somewhere along the way I adopted a skewed “grid for smartness” and it has gone unchallenged and uncontested…until now.

I’m reluctant to admit this, but the reality is that I self-deprecate as much as the next woman even though, on the outside, no one would guess that I do.

As a result, I’ve been believing a lie that hasn’t been broken because it’s never been spoken.

Defining the ‘Dream Gap’ in more detail:

In response to the study I mentioned at the start of this blog, Mattel launched a global campaign just three months ago called the ‘Dream Gap Project.’ Their goal is to close the gap that stands between girls and their full potential through raising awareness of gender biases and stereotypes that are placed on them at a young age, reinforced primarily by the media and from subtle messages by adults. Thus, they are encouraging girls to counter their self-limiting beliefs by dreaming for more while reaching for the stars.

On their website, Mattel boldly states their motivation behind this initiative:

“The Dream Gap is a crisis not only because it robs girls of the ability to value themselves in an essential context. Dreaming is the key to a future in which more than 80 percent of jobs are STEM-related [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math], and so we are all robbed. Simply put, dreaming, if we define that term as imagining new possibilities, exploring new worlds and thinking new thoughts, is what makes innovation and new breakthroughs possible.”

In this short video [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpLT8bEQ78A], a group of adorable young girls collectively use their voices to define the ‘Dream Gap’ in this way:

 
“Starting at age five, girls stop believing they can be presidents, scientists, astronauts, big thinkers, engineers, CEOs, and the list goes on. Why? Because what else are we going to believe when we are three times less likely to be given a science-related toy…and when our parents are twice as likely to Google ‘Is my son gifted?’ than ‘Is my daughter gifted?’ That’s not cool.”

“Starting at age five, girls stop believing they can be presidents, scientists, astronauts, big thinkers, engineers, CEOs, and the list goes on. Why? Because what else are we going to believe when we are three times less likely to be given a science-related toy…and when our parents are twice as likely to Google ‘Is my son gifted?’ than ‘Is my daughter gifted?’ That’s not cool.”

 

Keeping true to their word to increase purposeful dreaming in girls through imaginative play, Mattel recently announced their Girl of the Year as Luciana Vega, whom they describe as a creative, confident 11-year old girl and aspiring astronaut who dreams of being the first person to go to Mars!”

I am excited that empowered role models are being shown to young girls that invite them to think outside of a stereotypical box as they hold dolls that embody intelligence and strength. This sentiment is reinforced by the little girls in the above-mentioned video as they say:

“We need to see brilliant women being brilliant. And see how they got to where they there. To imagine ourselves doing what they do. But we can’t do it alone. Mom, dads, brothers, bosses, we need all of you to help. We need to close the dream gap. It’s up to all of us.”

How a Dad Can Help Close the ‘Dream Gap’:

You may feel like there’s very little you can do to override the powerful undertow of our cultural tide that comes against your daughter with negative messages that attack the very qualities that you seek to see displayed in her. You may believe your efforts are futile to successfully celebrate your daughter’s creativity, brilliance, optimism, vision, and passion when she isn’t always met with the same enthusiasm and support outside of your home.

As a dad you have the privilege of standing in the gap for your daughter so she can hear your affirming voice above the rest. You get to speak life into her spirit and applaud her uniqueness by supporting her dreams and goals (even if they’re different than the dreams and goals you have for her.)

This is where we as girls and women need YOU, our dads, to:

  1. Challenge us to face our fears

  2. Let us know that it’s okay to be afraid through this process of honing our vision

  3. Remind us that in your eyes we’re a winner when we give our best, even if we don’t win first prize

  4. Believe that we’re enough when we don’t believe that we are

  5. Run alongside us while we’re learning to dream beyond our natural limitations

  6. Coach us with wisdom about the fact that character is proven when we get back up after we fall

  7. Cheer us on with your unwavering support as you speak life-breathing words into us

  8. Repeat the truth that success is in the journey, not just in the outcome

  9. Tell us that you’re proud of us and love us no matter what

And, Dad, if you want one more idea to help your daughter close the dream gap, I encourage you to invite her to write a list of TEN OUTRAGEOUS THINGS SHE WISHES SHE HAD THE NERVE TO DO. Then have her date and sign it.

A decade ago I wrote out my list of ten outrageous things and one of them was “to write a book.” It seemed like a crazy impossibility at the time, but then in 2014 my first book was released. So I speak from personal experience when I say: Dream it and do it!

For extra dad points, you can create your own list, modeling to your daughter that you’re never too old to set new goals and think forward in expanding normal limits. This list can also serve as a prayer guide as you agree with God to support your daughter to live beyond her natural limits as she is released into his supernatural calling on her life!

Dad, you can help to close the dream gap today by standing in the gap with your daughter.

Start the Year With Your Own "Vehicle Inspection"

Michelle Watson

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Back in my 20’s I was radical about goal setting. So much so that twice a year I would join my friend Lynn as we’d head to places like Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood or to a cottage along the Washington Coast where we’d set individual six-month goals. Then we’d reconvene bi-annually to revisit and update those goals. It was a tradition for many years and I loved it.

 

Now before you’re too impressed with my resolve back in those days, I have to admit that I can’t remember the last time I’ve done anything similar. Maybe it’s because I don’t have an accountability partner now or maybe it’s because I’m a bit too lazy. Truthfully, it’s probably a combination of the two.

 

But what if you and I joined forces and we each did some self reflection right now while clarifying our intentions for 2019. 

 

One of the best things about starting a new year is that we have an opportunity to say goodbye to the last 365 and look forward to what’s ahead. There really is something powerful about having a built-in marker for reflection so that we don’t end up living out the truth of Zig Ziglar’s infamous words, “if you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”

 

Let’s be honest. The whole process of looking inward and casting a vision for the future takes discipline and courage. And though it’s never easy to slow down and re-evaluate, it’s vital if we want to make sure that our priorities (e.g., the things that take up our time) line up with our values.

 

All of this talk about goal-setting and strategizing has me thinking that sometimes we spend more time taking care of our cars than we do our relationships. And for many of us, we think that it’s vitally important to stay on track with regular vehicle inspections and maintenance to ensure that our cars are running their best, but when it comes to “looking under the hood” of our relationships, the same kind of precision doesn’t happen as easily…or at all.

 

In view of that reality, Dad, I want to offer a way for you to evaluate yourself where you will be lifting the hood of your “car” to check the wiring in order ensure optimum workability and performance.

 
 

 

Think of this self-assessment tool as your 50,000-mile vehicle inspection report as you begin this new year. It will help you gauge where you’re at now while providing a road map to guide you in reaching your fathering goals.

And though many dads have told me they’re not big into writing down their objectives as a father, I’ve discovered that those ideals are actually tucked deep within and clearer than many of them have realized. That’s where I believe this self-assessment tool will serve as a proactive resource to support your personal growth because it will help you clarify your vision.

Let me add that I’ve absolutely loved hearing from dads in The Abba Project (the group I lead for dads of daughters ages 13 to 30) who tell me that they made a copy of this Dialed-In Dad Checklist and put it in a prominent place to remind them of what they need to focus on.

Let’s get practical now.

After you take the Dialed-In Dad Self-Test and see items that are not a part of your daily or weekly interactions with your daughter, write two or three specific things on a note card or set them as a reminder on your phone so that you’re clear about what you are going to do starting today that will launch you on your journey toward being increasingly tuned-in to your daughter.

There’s no need to go down a path of guilt or shame for things you’ve done wrong in the past, and there’s no better time than the present to begin changing the past. You have today and every day from here on out to make up for lost time.

Here’s the bottom line: Being intentional makes a big difference.

Start the year strong by committing to go the distance as you proactively pursue your daughter’s heart daily. That said, Dads, it’s time to start your “engines!”

 

Click here for the Dialed-in Dad Checklist

Scents and Sensibility: How a Dad Can Make a Forever Investment in His Daughters Life

Michelle Watson

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Per·fume [pərˌfyo͞om] · a fragrant liquid typically made from essential oils extracted from flowers and spices, used to impart a pleasant smell to one's body or clothes.
 
Day [dā/] · a period of twenty-four hours as a unit of time; a particular period of the past, an era.
 
Per·fume Day [pərˌfyo͞om · dā/] · one of Dr. Michelle’s favorite days of the year when her dad extravagantly spoils her by investing in the perfume of her choice, all with the goal of creating:

  1. a forever memory

  2. a wonderful sensory experience that that lingers throughout the year while serving as a reminder of her dad’s love for her every time she wears it.

I imagine by now that the majority of you have heard me talk about my annual adventure with my dad that we affectionately call “Perfume Day.” 
 
(If, by chance, you haven’t read about it in my book, “Dad, Here’s What I Really Need from You: A Guide for Connecting with Your Daughter’s Heart” [http://amzn.to/1N3tp0W] or listened to the story in my book [on Audible at https://adbl.co/2MqSuiW] or heard my interview with my dad on The Dad Whisperer [https://bit.ly/2UqfEq0], I’m excited to share more about it with you today so that you can invest in your daughter’s life in a powerful way with one aromatic experience!)
 
It’s worth noting that my dad had absolutely no template of how to be a father. His dad wasn’t present for much of his life, and when he actually was home, he was often in a drunken stupor with unbridled anger. When my dad was a young adult, his father lived in a railroad boxcar, homeless and alone, suffering from the devastating effects of alcoholism.

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Then years later when my dad was in his late 30’s, he attended a conference where the men were given a challenge. In his own words my dad says, “we men were asked to think about ways we could be special to our kids, and since I had daughters I thought that perfume might be a good thing.”
 
And with that, Perfume Day was born.
 
This year my challenge to you as dads is this: why not approach the topic of creating a lasting memory with your daughter from a creative angle that involves a sensory and fragrant interaction between the two of you. Let me share why this one act will go a long way to reaching her heart.
 
First, did you know that some experts say that our sense of smell is the strongest of our five senses? Not only that, but olfactory nerves activate the primitive part of our brain that stays in our long-term memory and corresponds to motivation and emotion. This intricate wiring in our noses means that a certain scent can activate a powerful memory because it often outlasts other memories that are carried by our other four senses.
 
Dad Translation: By creating an experience with your daughter now that revolves around choosing her favorite perfume, you are giving her a sensory memory that will last a lifetime. The perfume itself will provide a tangible reminder of your love for her because of the way that actual scent will be attached to her memory networks for the rest of her life. From this day forward, every time she smells that scent, it will remind her of you.
 
Talk about a deposit with dividends that exceed the investment!
 
Second, this idea of perfume being a memory that can last a lifetime is rooted in history, going back a lot farther than my dad (who has been doing this at Christmas with me for 27 years now!).
 
Whether or not you’re a Bible reader, I’m hopeful that you’ll find this story relevant in light of this theme.
 
Just before Jesus’ death, his friend Mary poured expensive perfume on his feet, an action that was met with ridicule by some of the men who watched it happen. One in particular noted that it was a waste since the money could have been given to the poor.
 
Jesus came to Mary’s defense and told them to “leave her alone” while highlighting that she actually was preparing him for his upcoming burial. He told them that the poor would always be with them, but He wouldn’t. Mary seemed to understand something deeper than those around her and she communicated with her actions that the One she loved was worth this kind of costly investment. 
 
I guess you could say that “Perfume Day” had it’s beginning between a woman and her Savior.

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Author Ken Gire says it this way:
 
We all grow up and grow out of our childlike enthusiasms. But maybe something of the little girl in Mary never did. And maybe one of the reasons she  meant so much to  Jesus is because sitting at his feet and anointing Him with perfume came as naturally as children throwing their arms around their daddy’s legs and showering Him with hugs and kisses.
 
Mary’s response to her Friend tells me that He had previously invested well in her, which resulted in her enthusiastic response back to Him out of a relational overflow.
 
Dad, if you’ve never done it before, I encourage you to take the step this year to make Perfume Day a new tradition with your daughter.
 
(And if you’re like some of the men I’ve spoken to who say that their daughter “isn’t into perfume,” perhaps you’ll create a different kind of forever memory by together making a plate or bowl at a “Make-Your-Own-Pottery” store. I realize that her sense of smell won’t necessarily be activated, but it’s still a great alternative as she’ll have that piece for the rest of her life as a reminder of you).
 
I wish each of you the best ending to 2018 and look forward to staying connected in 2019 as I continue bringing practical action tools that you can add your fathering toolbox.
 
But before I go, here’s a couple of pictures from Perfume Day with my dad. I trust you’ll enjoy this walk down memory lane as I’m sure it will inspire laughter at my expense once you see some of my hairstyles!

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“Thanks Dad for creating forever memories with me and letting me know I’m worth your investment. I love you, Michelle”

10 Reasons I Thank God He Made Fathers

Michelle Watson

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I realize that we’re a week past Thanksgiving, but the idea of giving thanks is still on my heart. So I figured it was a fitting time to let you dads hear about why I’m thankful that God made you.

First, the backstory. Having come alongside girls and young women now for the past four decades, I can undoubtedly say that a father is one, if not the most important person in her life.
 

Yes, moms are essential and necessary and important on more levels than I can count, but every woman with a dialed-in dad will confirm that he has been vital to developing her core sense of identity. It’s her relationship with her father that has helped to build her self esteem and self worth. Even more, she will tell you that the foundation that her dad laid (or didn’t lay) has significantly impacted how she still views herself today.

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Now back to you as dads. I want you to know what I honestly think and believe about you. Plain and clear. Straight to the point. 
 
This is why you really matter and why your presence makes a difference in the lives of your daughters:

  1. You are the one whose opinion matters most. 

  2. Your attention communicates more per square inch than you could ever imagine.
    (I’m not sure why it does, but it just does. You’ll have to believe me on that one!)

  3. When you show up, it carries more relational weight than most anyone else.

  4. When you provide for her needs, she settles into knowing she’ll truly be okay.

  5. When you look at her with love in your eyes, you are placing a deposit into her heart so deep that she will hold it there long afterwards.

  6. Your smile tells her she’s loved and special, treasured and valued.

  7. You make her day when you kindly respond to her, especially when you go out of your way to give your last bit of energy just to let her know you’re there for her.

  8. When you’re proud of her, she thrives in doing anything possible to ensure that it stays that way.

  9. When you’re around, she feels safe.

  10. Your support makes her believe she can do anything as long as you’re there to cheer her on!

 So just in case you ever think that your presence in your daughter’s life is less than essential or even insignificant, please trust me when I say that this couldn’t be further from the truth.
 
I am thankful for each of you and the way you are literally changing the core of our culture from the ground up as you intentionally and consistently invest in your daughter’s hearts! 
 
To sum it up, I simply say, “thanks Dads.”